Further to “Is ‘macroevolution’ even a meaningful term?” It’s time to ask, the term seems to have long been problematic. Mathematician Granville Sewelloffers a .pdf of a clipping from the New York Times in 1980:
At issue during the Chicago meeting was macroevolution, a term that
is itself a matter of debate but which generally refers to the evolution of major differences, such as those separating species or larger classifications. Most agree that macroevolution is, for example, what made crustaceans different from mollusks. It is the process by which birds and mammals evolved out of reptiles. It is also what gave rise to major evolutionary innovations shared by many groups, such as the flower in higher plants or the eye in vertebrates.
Darwin suggested that such major products of evolution were the results of very long periods of gradual natural selection, the mechanism that is widely accepted today as accounting for minor adaptations. These small variations, considered products of microevolution, account for such things as the different varieties of finches Darwin found in the Galapagos Islands. Under human control, or “artificial selection,” microevolution has produced all the varieties of domestic dog, all of which remain members of a single species.
Darwin, however, knew he was on shaky ground in extending natural selection to account for differences between major groups of organisms. The fossil record of his day showed no gradual transitions between such groups but he suggested that further fossil discoveries would fill the missing links.
So the idea of “macroevolution” was a matter of debate back then, and thirty-five years later, as James Tour says, virally, no scientist alive understands it.
Darwin is still on shaky ground everywhere but in the textbooks.
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